Yes You Can

Leadership is an uneven skill. 

Except for the command and control form, you cannot impose leadership on others.  Things that are imposed are opposed.  Leadership success is more about helping others to succeed by clearing obstacles from their path.

One of the important obstacles to remove is the person’s innate insecurity.  Most weak leaders enhance rather than reduce this impediment to success.  Why?  Because telling someone they cannot succeed is easy and adds power to the purveyor of the thought.  The great decider.  The Judge!

This came again to me while reading a book I received for Christmas.  “Legends, Icons and Rebels” by Robbie Robertson, songwriter and guitarist with The Band.  Many of the performers discussed in the book received negative feedback early in their career.

A grade school teacher told Elvis Presley, “You have no talent for music.”  A high school teacher graded Brian Wilson’s music study C-.  The Beach Boys later recorded it. ” Surfin’”  Bob Dylan received an “F” in music appreciation.

This, of course is not unfamiliar.  Einstein was bad at math.  Fred Smith received a C- for a business school project that essentially outlined what FEDEX would eventually become.  Tris Speaker said, “Babe Ruth will regret the day he gave up pitching.”

A position of authority and perhaps special knowledge never gives a person the right or the ability to estimate the future performance of another.  No one can know what motivates the other, nor can they know the subtle knowledge involved in pursuing what the person sees.

People pursing difficult and not so clearly defined outcomes do not need to hear about the failure potential.  They likely have plenty of that already in their mind.

It is not to say that only negative things are said.  There are many inspirational teachers and leaders.  When she was young, Joni Mitchell saw herself to be an artist not a musician.  The guidance she received was a little different from the others.  One of her grade school teachers told her, “If you can paint with a brush, you can paint with words.”

Her debut album, Song To A Seagull,  included a dedication to her Grade 7 teacher,  “This album is dedicated to Mr. Kratzman who taught me to love words.”

Try this idea instead of a self indulgent critique.

If you think you can, you might.
If you think you can’t, you’re right

Negative ideas limit.  As parents, employers, bosses and friends, avoid the negative.  Be especially careful to avoid self talk that is negative.  Keep the “might” in play.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.